Tag Archives: kickstarter

Kickstarting Gameplay Anew: Ambrov X’s Promise

A capacious chamber that appears open to the stars, with a woman levitating in its centre surrounded by elegant minimalist semicircles of machinery while a man looks on.

The Astrogation Resonance Chamber aboard the Beacon Ship, Unity One from Loreful’s Ambrov X, a new RPG they are currently crowdfunding.

Despite spirited opposition that has come to dominate the year’s headlines, there remains ample reason to be hopeful that games will evolve to tell new, more diverse stories, with pathbreaking mechanics undergirding it all. Consider Cincinnati-based game developer Loreful and their new game Ambrov X which was kickstarted just this past Tuesday. Under the direction of Lead Designer Ben Steel, and based on the classic feminist sci-fi Sime-Gen universe series, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah, Ambrov X promises an involving story premised on an abiding, mortally dangerous relationship between two members of the eponymous Sime and Gen species. Through the lens of this fraught partnership, the larger political story of an action-adventure plot set in deep space is told. The bond between your protagonist and their companion seems to be the beating heart of this story; Jennifer Helper minces no words:

“How much more intense could your relationship be with your followers if they were more than friends, more than romances – if they were both a part of your soul and the greatest threat to it?”

And yes you did read correctly; this project is erstwhile Bioware writer Jennifer Hepler’s next act, cheerfully announced in a Loreful press release. She is consulting for the company at present and, provided they reach the first stretch goal on their Kickstarter project, Loreful intends to bring her on board full-time as their Lead Writer and Narrative Designer for Ambrov X. Her ability to tell a challenging story will hold her in good stead here, I think. Hepler has long been an advocate of probing personal relationships for narrative grist, up to and including romance irrespective of gender; I could certainly see why this project would appeal to her. “The setting allows you to play with the difference between romance and sexuality,” she said when I asked her about Ambrov X and its source material, “and [it lets you] ask questions like: Can you be in an intense and physical relationship with someone without it being sexual? Can love help someone overcome the desire for violence, even if it is a basic part of his nature? and How much of yourself can you give up to another while still remaining you?” Continue reading

Kickstart This: GTFO: A Film About Women in Gaming

GTFO is a documentary project by Shannon Sun-Higginson that seeks to cover the experiences of women in game development, game journalism, and pro-gaming. There are a few things I like about this project. While the phrase “women in games” has come to mean a lot of things, the documentary is focusing on interviewing women about the sexism and harassment they face in and around the industry. Also, the film is being made by a self-proclaimed “outsider” to the game industry, which could lend it a fresh perspective. The fact that it is a documentary means it has the potential to reach a wider and different audience than, say, a panel at a convention, which will bring more awareness to the issue.

Sun-Higginson is asking for $20,000 to finish the film. It is more than halfway funded with ten days left. You can read more about the project in an interview with Sun-Higginson at GamesIndustry International.

GTFO: A Film About Women in Gaming — Kickstarter

Kickstart This – Delver’s Drop

At PAX Prime 2012, I played a short demo of Delver’s Drop. At that time, the demo was a few rooms of a dungeon, but I was impressed with the fluid movement and physics-based interactions between the character and the environment. When the character hit an enemy with a sword, both were knocked in opposite directions based on their physical properties. The top-down 2D action RPG is the first game from Pixelscopic, and the company has a Kickstarter to help them finish the game. Continue reading

FYI: Dreamfall Chapters is on Kickstarter

Ragnar Tørnquist’s new studio, Red Thread Games, launched their Kickstarter campaign for Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey today. Chapters is the long-awaited third game in The Longest Journey adventure game series, from which this blog takes its name. The series is known for excellent writing, strong female protagonists in April and Zoe, and a number of queer characters as well. The Kickstarter is asking for $850,000, of which over $280,000 has already been raised as of this writing. If the game is funded, Red Thread plans to have it ready for release in 2014.

Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey by Red Thread Games — Kickstarter

iBeg and the Challenges Facing Activist Games

Patricia Hernandez has an in-depth article on Kotaku today examining iBeg, a game that seeks to raise awareness about homelessness, and the broader challenges facing games for change in general. She begins by looking at iBeg‘s Kickstarter campaign and describing how there’s something about it that makes her uncomfortable:

The name alone is wince-inducing, yes—why can’t we let the whole “i__” die? But beyond this, I began thinking about other possible issues: does the game’s cute pixel art detract from the bleak reality of the issue? “There is a balance that we have to maintain between keeping the game engaging enough for players to want to keep playing it, but also introduce them to all of the negative things that homeless people have to go through,” Worboys explained. Then I began wondering: maybe such a concession was necessary, because it helped make the game more palatable for people who may not want to deal with the full weight of the issue. Games like to function as escapism and feel-goodery, after all.

Feel-goodery is often antithesis to spreading awareness. Actually understanding difficult, systemic issues like homelessness is not comfortable, and a game that seeks to have the player experience what it is like to be in such a situation simply cannot be “fun.”

Hernandez goes on to interview Ari Burak, co-president of Games For Change, as well as the supervisor of a homeless shelter, who speaks about how the Kickstarter money for something like iBeg would help if it went directly to a homeless shelter instead. She also examines some of the more practical considerations for these types of games, such as publisher hesitancy when it comes to backing games that are about a message.

The article is a thorough and thoughtful examination of an area of games that is often either dismissed or blown out of proportion. If you have time for one long read today, make it this one.

The Complicated Truth Behind Games That Want To Change The World — Patricia Hernandez, Kotaku

The Border House Podcast – Episode 8: Kickstarter and Crowd Funded Games

Green "Funded with Kickstarter" badge.

We recorded a podcast about Kickstarter/crowd funded games awhile back and I neglected to put it up on the site right away. I apologize to everyone for that oversight.

The audio quality of this one isn’t ideal but the enthusiastic discussion we had was a lot of fun. We were joined by Deirdra Kiai, Jonathan Lavallee, Kimadactyl, and it was hosted by Gunthera1.


Are there any Kickstarter projects that are of special interest to you right now? What do you think of some of the projects that have been funded recently?



Finally, if there are any topics you would like to see covered in future podcasts then please let us know in the comments.

How to be transphobic, the Alpha Colony Kickstarter way

The opening screen for the Alpha Colony trailer on Kickstarter.


Danielle Bunten Berry was one of the more influential video gaming pioneers in our industry.  The designer and programmer was known for her work on titles that were always ahead of their time, such as M.U.L.E., The Seven Cities of Gold, Modem Wars (the first PC game that could be played across multiple computers online), and Heart of Gold.  Formerly Dan Bunten, she underwent sex reassignment surgery in 1992 and started living full-time as a woman.  Dani Bunten passed away in 1998 due to lung cancer at 49 years old.

A Kickstarter has been underway for a game called Alpha Colony, a tribute to the classic M.U.L.E. in which DreamQuest Games secured the license for the IP from Dani’s family.   Over $36,000 has already been raised towards a lofty $500,000 goal, with 18 days left to go in the project.  So what’s wrong with this picture?  This seems like a wonderful way to give tribute to an underrated game industry veteran who made a huge splash on innovation, right?  Cue the transphobia.

The text in the Kickstarter refers to Dan Bunten, and the asterisk along with the name reveals the following: “Dan Bunten was the creator of the original M.U.L.E. game in 1983 and the  family would prefer that we refer to him as Dan instead of Dani.”

This certainly isn’t the first time I have seen this kind of thing after a transgender individual passes away.  Danielle Bunten did say some controversial things about her decision to transition, stating that she became a woman in the hopes that she would feel turned-on all of the time and telling other people who want a surgical sex change not to do it because it’s more trouble than it’s worth.  That might make this situation slightly more complicated, but the fact of the matter is that Dani lived as a woman 100% of the time up until she passed away.  She suffered through being treated like a second class citizen, and even talked about how her family and old friends abandoned her as a result of her transition, making access to her children more difficult.  She was inducted into the Academy of Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame as a woman, as Dani Bunten Berry.  And it’s apparent that her family is attempting to erase her female identity to make things more comfortable for them.

Did Dani regret her transition?  Perhaps.  But until the end, she was committed to her life as a woman.  Her family is openly showing that even after her death, even after her life of success in the game industry, they still cannot support her for who she was.  They are ashamed of her.  I understand DreamQuest’s desire to capitalize on the license and legitimize their game by attaching the original creator’s name to the project, but what a slap in the face it is that they cannot use the name Dani preferred to go by.  And if Dani’s family is going to make any revenue off this project aside from recognition (hell, even if they’re not), shame on them for using their privilege to erase her identity so they can feel more comfortable with it all.

(h/t to Jason B. for the tip)

This Week In Harassment

The Tropes vs Women in Video Games logo along with a bunch of female game characters.

Friend of the blog Anita Sarkeesian of the awesome Feminist Frequency is the latest target of a harassment campaign by misogynist gamers. She has written about the wave of harassment she has received via KickStarter, YouTube, and the vandalizing of her Wikipedia page. The methods are disturbing, but familiar. This is all in response to her KickStarter project Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, a series of videos for her Tropes vs. Women series that will focus on games. As of this writing, the project has over 2,000 backers and raised nearly $50,000, well over the original target of $6,000.

It’s nice that the number of backers doubled once news of the harassment campaign started getting around. But the video game community needs to do more. It’s well past time for the video game community to own up to and condemn the fact that there is a subset of us dedicated to organized mob harassment of people who criticize games in any way, but particularly when it comes to social issues like misogyny, racism, and homophobia. It’s time to stop rolling our eyes about how awful gamers and nerds are. We are gamers and nerds, and this is our community. If you know someone who is involved in this sort of thing, tell them that it’s not cool. Condemn this sort of behavior on forums, on Twitter, wherever you have a voice. If you don’t feel safe doing those things, then don’t (safety is most important), but if you can, speak up. This is a perfect way for allies who want to do more to do so. Let harassers know they are the ones who aren’t welcome in video games, not the people who make thoughtful criticism out of love for the medium. Games don’t belong to them, and the community has no need for people who harass and try to silence criticism.

And by the way, there’s still time to back the project.

Signal Boosting: Bhaloidam

This entry was originally posted at Deirdra Kiai Productions.

My good friend Corvus Elrod has a project on Kickstarter at the moment, seeking funding for his fabulous tabletop roleplaying system. Called “Bhaloidam”, which aptly derives from the Proto-Indo-European words for “story”, “play”, and “community” (and is just a damn cool name), its goal in a nutshell is to help people tell stories together. Plus, the handbook is being written as a comic book — how awesome is that? Anyway, you can find out more at the official website, and back the project here.*

The Bhaloidam Lifewheel

A Bhaloidam game board, also known as the Lifewheel, with tokens and a timing pawn showing a game in progress.

As for my personal experiences with Bhaloidam, in the 2-3ish years I’ve known Corvus, I’ve played a handful of games in various iterations of the system, and had lots of fun every time. I’ve even co-designed a variant of the rules specifically for running dialogue-based games, as depicted in this here gameplay sample where you play as siblings at a funeral. Since Bhaloidam isn’t tied to a specific story, you can basically pick whatever subject matter you want; the rules are there to give your storytelling some structure and encourage an egalitarian mindset among players. Fierce advocate for social change that I am, this is a design philosophy I’m happy to get behind. I’m already thinking of some ideas for games of my own to run using the system, and look forward to playing them both in person and online.

Anyway, the funding deadline’s in exactly one week, so back the project now and help Corvus hit his funding goal. $9 gets you a digital version of the handbook, while larger amounts of money get you hard copies, game boards/pieces, guest appearances in the handbook, and even opportunities to get copies of the game out to kids’ charities. Definitely a good cause all around, I say.

* Corvus is even running online demos conducted via Google Plus hangouts, which I highly recommend checking out if you’re interested in seeing how it all comes together.

Heartbreak & Heroines: Feminist RPG Kickstarter project


It has come to my attention that a post has come out declaring that the starter of this project, Caoime, is someone who has sexually molested a transgender man.  At this point, it is probably best that you read through the post and make your own choices and decisions about whether to fund or support this project.


Heartbreak and Heroines logo

A new tabletop RPG is in the works, that is, if enough people help to fund the project on Kickstarter.  Heartbreak & Heroines is “a fantasy roleplaying game about adventurous women who go and have awesome adventures — saving the world, falling in love, building community, defeating evil. It’s a game about relationships and romance, about fairy tales and feminism.”

In case you’re not familiar with how Kickstarter works, it’s a website that allows people to post independent projects — everything from books, films, video games, charity non-profit work, businesses, and more — that require funding in order to begin or complete.  People can then fund the projects by donating a little bit (or a lot) of money to help the project see the light of day.  The creators of the projects are obligated to provide benefits to the financial backers based on terms they lay out broadly for all potential backers to see.  It’s a neat idea that has supported lots of interesting and creative projects, such as Womanthology, an all-female comic anthology that has raised over $62,000 so far.

Heartbreak & Heroines has a bit of information about the proposed game mechanics and also an FAQ that helps answer some questions such as this one:

Wait, isn’t it sexist to say that women adventurers are only motivated by broken romances?

Sure, that would be pretty sexist if that’s what we were saying. But it’s not. “Heartbreak” here doesn’t refer exclusively (or even primarily) to romantic relationships, and H&H characters are not limited to women. The concept of “heartbreak” can include the death of a best friend, the destruction of one’s ancestral homeland, being denied entry to the school of your choice, or having your cat change into a giant were-dragon-lion thing that you have to kill before it eats your neighborhood. “Heartbreak” is about why you leave behind the life of a peasant, a farmer, a cook, a princess, a soldier, or a student, and become an adventurer — when you’re likely to die a horrible death from risking your life against terrifying monsters.

Anyone who donates $15 to the project will get a free PDF of the game when it has been released; $25 will get you a hard copy.

Check out the project here!

Edit: It has come to my attention that a post has come out declaring that the starter of this project, Caoime, is someone who has sexually molested a transgender man.  At this point, it is probably best that you read through the post and make your own choices and decisions about whether to fund or support this project.